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An Editorial: Feingold, Baldwin and human rights in Tibet

July 22, 2008

The Capital Times (Madison, WI, USA)
July 20, 2008

The visit of the Dalai Lama to Madison offers a reminder that U.S.
policy toward China has played a critical role in strengthening the
regime that oppresses the people of Tibet.

When Congress extended permanent most-favored-nation trading status
to China eight years ago, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Rep. Tammy
Baldwin, D-Madison, were among the leading critics of the move not
just in the Wisconsin delegation but in the Congress.

Feingold and Baldwin both rejected pressure from the administration
of former President Bill Clinton, whose passion for advancing
free-trade deals was almost equal to that of the current President Bush.

The ability of the United States to pressure China on human rights
issues was severely undermined by the enactment of the trade deal
with China. The weakness of the U.S. position was on full display
this spring, when China violently cracked down on dissent in Tibet.

The crackdown was part of the run-up to the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

And it was shameful.

As Baldwin explains, "I am very concerned about the ongoing
oppression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government. Chinese
human rights abuses are well documented. The most recent U.S. human
rights report finds that China's 'record of respect for religious
freedom in Tibet (has) deteriorated,' political dissent is 'not
tolerated at any time,' and dissent is 'promptly and forcibly
suppressed.' A recent Amnesty International report found that torture
is used routinely. It is clear to me that Chinese actions in Tibet
violate international standards of human rights. The United States
must pressure China to respect the autonomy of Tibet and end its
crackdown on religious expression."

Unfortunately, while the reality on the ground in Tibet is clear to
Baldwin, it is not clear to George Bush.

The president, relinquishing one of the few remaining tools he had to
pressure China on human rights issues, has announced that he will
attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics next month. Several
members of Congress are likely to accompany him.

But Russ Feingold and Tammy Baldwin won't be among those who are
lending legitimacy to the brutality of the Chinese government.

These visionary leaders will continue to do the right thing when it
comes to human rights and the related issue of trade policy.

Other members of the Wisconsin delegation would be wise to follow the
lead of Feingold and Baldwin. The senator from Middleton and the
congresswoman from Madison recognize that it is not just possible but
necessary for the United States to stand up for human rights -- in
Tibet, in China and around the world.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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